I Will Not Take These Things For Granted

God, I'm so tired.
How many nights have I spent like this? How many missions spent hopelessly awake? I can hear frogs singing pleasant lullabies in the distance, leaves rustling hypnotically in the gentle breeze. These things should soothe me into sleep, but I've gone beyond that now - fatigued to the point where sleep is no longer possible. I know it will successfully evade me again, so I don't even try. Don't even close my eyes anymore. The only reason I'm even lying down is so they won't whisper those hushed words of concern; words I don't have to hear to know exist.
How many nights has it been? Twenty-seven. Nearly a month, but in my mind it's only been a day. My body tells me otherwise. I'm in a never-ending, numb purgatory and I haven't a clue if I'm heading for heaven or hell. Or which of the two I prefer. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters at all. Dead is dead.
Dead. Like Sha're. I light my watch inches from my face. Right on schedule. 2:45 a.m., same time I always lead to that brilliant revelation. Twenty-seven 2:45s. I don't know if I can take many more before I go completely and unequivocally insane, for real this time. I know I need to move on before this eats me alive. I understand that. I just can't.
They try, each of them in their own way. At first I didn't hide the insomnia from them. After all, everyone expected it - a person doesn't witness his wife blown away by a good friend without some psychological damage. Sam busted me with my 'stay awake forever' routine years ago, but I can see she doesn't have a clue what to say or do around me. Jack has always seen past my sad attempts to pretend life is normal. I guess it's from living with him all those weeks right after Sha-
No matter what I do, I can't stop thinking. Thinking there must have been something else Teal'c could have done. I've even thought about getting a little help from our old friend the Gamekeeper, though I know there's nothing anyone can do to fix this. I don't blame Teal'c, but I can't really look at him either.
A week is all it took before Jack's scowl became omnipresent, eating into me even when he wasn't near. Before Sam's lip trembled and her eyes brimmed with tears every time she passed me. Before Teal'c jaw muscles started spasming and refused to stop. I saw their anxiety, but it only seemed to fuel my hurt. They've caught me staring into nothingness instead of sleeping. I've added fresh layers of concern on top of them. Not a burden I wanted on my shoulders.
So I took to burrowing in my sleeping bag, feigning rest. Started taking the last watch so I could down an entire pot of coffee before they rose. It'll be over soon, this grief period, and then I can let them back in.
A loud thud and muffled curse disturb my unpleasant thoughts. Jack. It's as good an excuse as any to be up early for my watch. I throw back the sleeping bag and carelessly throw my boots on. Stumbling out of my tent, playing the role of disoriented camper with the skill of a Shakespearean actor, I spot Jack sitting on a log next to the fire. He's rubbing his bad knee with venom.
Silently, I glide onto a rock on the opposite side of the fire. We sit wordless for a good ten minutes, I avoiding his intent stare. I can take it no more and finally look to him. In that instant I see he knows. My ruse hasn't been as clever as my sleep-deprived mind convinced itself it was. Abashedly, I avert my eyes again, staring at the crackling fire instead. I hear him move, muffling a grunt when his knee catches. He gracelessly plops down next to me and says nothing.
I don't move.
"Forty-three."
I jump as his voice cuts through the night, silencing the frogs. The wind has mysteriously disappeared and we are engulfed in suffocating stillness. My heart pounds in my chest, both from his words and the implication behind them. I know he's expecting me to give him some sort of response. I'm pretty sure I know what he's referring to, and I'm not ready to provoke the topic just yet.
"Forty-three drunken, horrible, sleepless nights. Then five sober, horrible, sleepless nights," Jack murmurs again.
He's not going to let me off the hook.
"Did you really think we wouldn't figure it out?" he asks. "Hell, Carter's been watching the coffee supply like a hawk. Teal'c's got that Jaffa sixth sense thing or whatever. And I just know, Daniel."
The tears burn and blur my eyes. I sigh tiredly and look over at him. Even through my pain I can see Charlie haunting his expression.
"Aren't you going to ask?" he prompts with a nudge to my knee.
"Ask what?" I shoot back, really unsure where he's trying to lead me.
"What happened on the forty-fourth day."
"Okay. What happened on the forty-fourth day?" I repeat in monotone.
"You. You and Skaara. Back in that cave on Abydos, remember?" Jack whispers. "God, I was so messed up I was even drinking myself into a stupor after I'd been reinstated. During the mission. Didn't know that, did you? You stopped that cold. It still surprises me how easily you did it; how much I needed a friend to slap me upside the head. Even back then I knew, Daniel. Knew you were my friend, and that simply proved it. It wasn't long after that that I was able to move out of my self induced hell."
He's told me this before - told me he owed me his life. Never with specifics and never while completely solemn. I don't know what to say to him. I don't understand what he's trying to tell me. I must look more befuddled than usual, because Jack sighs, grabs the scruff of my neck in a tight, gentle grip. He pulls my head closer to his, so we're only inches apart.
Instinct makes me try to flinch away, but his hold is iron. Brown eyes bore into me, but they're not hard like his grasp. They're softer than I've ever seen them.
"You're not alone, Daniel. Don't allow yourself to be. We're here, all of us. Let us help you," he earnestly whispers.
Then he releases me, rises and moves to his tent. I track his movement, half expecting him to return to the fire. He doesn't. I'm left alone with his words and they surround me, circle in my head over and over.
All my life, I've been alone. Dealt with my pain alone. It hasn't got me very far. He's right and I know it. I've always known it. I don't think I'll be seeing sleep anytime soon, but that doesn't mean I can't lean on my friends' willing shoulders.
I stir the fire and wait for the new day, no longer filled with emptiness and dread, but hope.
The End

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.